1753 - 1806
period: 1603-1867 Ukiyo-e (Edo Period)
Kitagawa Utamaro is considered one of the most famous “ukiyo-e” artists: “Pictures of the floating world”. Since youth he was a scholar of Toriyama Sekien, who was a poet and a painter of Kano tradition. Utamaro started his profession with the illustration of small popular book and representation of Kabuki theater. Well-known painter, designer of wonderful woodcut, illustrator of album and author of erotic prints, Utamaro was the most renowned artist that celebrate feminine beauty. He reached the highest point around 1780-1790 c. when he associated with publisher Tsutaya Jusaburo, who took the artist under his protection until he died in 1797. Afterwards he reached a personal style and he exceeded the fame of Kiyonaga, who was an illustrious painter of the feminine beauty, catching the exquisite shade of the face and the feelings of graceful women. After the death of Sekien, in 1766, Utamaro was free from the influence of his master and he started to illustrate very refine books like “The Shell Book. Shiohi no tsuto”, 1789, “Mushi Erabi” on the insects, “Momo Chidori” on the birds and “Shioi no Tsuto” on pisces. In 1804 the artist was arrested and imprisoned because he had published erotic prints, or Shunga, and for some historical prints that weren’t allowed because they were adverse to the law of the official censorship. But Utamaro is well-known especially for his women’s compositions (bjin-ga), depicted in their daily life or in the pleasure quarters of Edo: Yoshiwara. The artist is without a doubt one of the most famous artist of Edo and he was the first to be appreciated in Europe thanks to Edmond de Goncourt that presents Utamaro with the name of “Painter of green houses” or closed houses or “Yoshiwara”. His influence on Western art was remarkable. Bibliography: Shibui, Ukiyo-e Zuten, vol. 13, Utamaro, Tokyo, 1964, pp. 111-114. Jack Hillier “Utamaro”, 1961. Jack Hillier “Japanese Prints and Drawings from Vever Collection”, London, 1976, 449. Asano-Clark, “Jitsu kurabe iro no minakami”,1995.